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  • Writer's picturePhil McLoughlin

Elvis the Piss-Artist

Updated: May 16, 2020

We were walking back to the gallery when Elvis headed off to take a pee on the edge of Richard Long’s Macduff circle. It seemed perfectly fitting that he should mark his passing on all this ancient slate; leaving his calling card among the countless others who had marked the moment with such a primitive blessing.

I should say that my companion was not ‘The King’ of Graceland but our Parsons Jack Russell: a 'king' in his own world; a noble beast, but not well known beyond his own limited territory. I am not sure how long the true King would have pondered the Macduff Circle but his canine namesake had already 'left the building' - in search of new stimuli.

Elvis recognised the Gallery grounds since he has been there before. He had some understanding of its physical layout if not cultural significance. This led me to wonder if urinating on this particular artwork was different from scent-marking rocks in a field on a hillside.

As I watched him sniff around I recalled a Mark Boyle exhibition in Edinburgh forty years earlier. Among the various exhibits from his Journey to Surface of the Earth” he included a photograph of a “dog pissing on the edge of a site”. Boyle had chosen this particular spot on the surface of the Earth (by some random system) to explore and 'capture' as part of a work of ‘art’. The passing dog had chosen the same spot. He also had ‘captured’ it, however momentarily, with a stream of urine. If the photograph of the pissing dog could become part of an art exhibit, could not the dog not also be described as an artist in his own right?

Elvis turned round and gazed up at me. What was he 'making' of this afternoon in the gallery grounds. Unlike most other visitors he had actually engaged, intimately, with at least one of the works. Indeed, by scent-marking the Macduff Circle he had 'captured', if not transformed it, with his own piece of 'performance art'. Maybe he had created another homage to Duchamp's 'fountain'.

Or, perhaps he had offered up something that was more of a critique: "call this art!"

Copyright - Phil McLoughlin 2020.

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